The head of Russian-controlled Zaporozsky Region has announced that the port of Berdyansk is now operational
A vessel carrying 7,000 tons of grain left the port of Berdyansk on Thursday morning, marking the resumption of normal operations, the head of Zaporozhsky Region's pro-Russian administration has claimed. In late March, the Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine of planting hundreds of mines along the coastline of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Moscow insisted that the explosives were a "direct threat" to commercial shipping.
Evgeny Balitsky, the self-described "head of the military-civil administration of Zaporozhsky Region," made the announcement on his Telegram channel. According to the post, "after several months of downtime, the first merchant vessel has left the Berdyansk sea trading port." Balitsky revealed that the ship was carrying grain destined for "friendly countries."
He noted that several Russian Navy warships were providing protection for the vessel.
Balitsky also pointed out that the city and its harbor are "completely safe" after the Russian Navy removed mines from there.
He says the port's facilities and personnel are ready to resume work. In his post, the official noted that Berdyansk has always been a port city, with its economic prosperity largely dependent on it.
Speaking to journalists in mid-June, Alexander Saulenko, the head of the district's interim administration said: "We have the prospects of signing contracts with Turkey."
He emphasized that since there was "quite a lot of grain" in the region, the authorities were eager to free up warehouses to make room for a new harvest as well as to help local farmers make money.
Saulenko claimed that the port was already "up and running" by then.
Russian forces seized the city in late February, just days after Moscow launched its offensive.
Zaporozhsky Region is located near Russia's Crimea and the Donetsk Republic. By late May, the Russian military seized over 70% of the region, according to an official from the pro-Moscow local administration.
Following the start of the armed conflict, Kiev and its Western allies have repeatedly accused the Kremlin of blocking Ukrainian grain from passing through the Black Sea. The West claims that by allegedly disrupting the sale of Ukrainian grain to a number of African and Middle Eastern nations, Russia is deliberately provoking famine in those countries to put pressure on Ukraine's allies.
Moscow, argues that it is Ukrainian mines that are making the route impassable to commercial vessels. In early June, President Vladimir Putin guaranteed the safe passage of Ukrainian grain through Russian-controlled ports in the south of the country. He also denied any responsibility for the food shortages.
At the time Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the "share of this Ukrainian grain in question is less than 1% of the global production of wheat and other cereals." He doubled down on the claim that the "current situation with Ukrainian grain has nothing to do with the food crisis."